Labor is at risk of losing about 18 seats at this year's federal election according to an opinion poll focused on Australia's most marginal electorates.

The poll of 54 seats conducted by JWS Research shows an average swing against the Government of 4.8 per cent, giving the Coalition a two-party preferred lead of 54.9 per cent to 45.1 per cent.

According to the state-by-state breakdown of the figures, Labor's prospects are worst in New South Wales, where the party could lose 10 seats with a further three in Victoria.

However, Labor could pick up as many as six seats in Queensland.

"That's because at the last election the Coalition won a lot of seats in Queensland, so there are a lot of marginal Coalition seats in Queensland," JWS research managing director John Scales told AM.

"I'd say there's probably some state-based factors coming into play there as well."

The poll, published in The Financial Review newspaper, was commissioned by ECG Advisory Solutions which is a consultancy firm run by former Liberal candidate David Gazard.

If the results were replicated on election day, Labor would be reduced to 54 seats in the Federal Parliament, giving the Coalition a clear majority.

"In terms of coming back from that far behind, Howard did it back in 2001... to win the election," Mr Scales said.

"[However] I think the electorate is a bit more ready to change government these days than what it has been in the past."

Asked about the poll results in Melbourne this morning, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said: "I've made it my consistent practice not to run a commentary on polls".

"The fact is, opinion polls will go up and down between now and polling day."

The most recent national poll conducted by Newspoll showed support for Labor had risen to its highest level since the 2010 election, although the Coalition retained a narrow lead.

That poll, which was published a fortnight ago, showed the Coalition was ahead 51 per cent to Labor's 49 per cent after preferences.

The Newspoll survey was conducted nationwide, unlike the JWS Research poll which focused on seats with margins of less than 6 per cent.

The JWS Research involved phone interviews with 3,350 people, giving it a margin of error of 1.7 per cent. It was conducted on January 17.

According to the findings, a quarter of voters in the 54 most marginal seats nominated the economy and jobs as the most important issue for this year's election.

That was closely followed by health care (20 per cent), cost of living (15 per cent), leadership (10 per cent), and immigration and border security (9 per cent).

Just 8 per cent of voters said the most important issue to them was education, which Prime Minister Julia Gillard has flagged as a key plank of her 2013 agenda.


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